I don't know if you remember. But today is the anniversary of the Virigina Tech shooting. It was the country's worst school shooting. And many people didn't remember like I did. These things are important to think about. The safety of students, and the lives that were lost. It was a tragic day that we should never forget. The school, however, has started to move on from the horrible incident.
A sea of people wearing orange and maroon flowed onto the main lawn at Virginia Tech on Wednesday, some clutching single roses, to remember the victims of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
They gathered on the same field where a white candle lit at midnight began a day of mourning for the 32 people killed a year ago by a student gunman who shot himself as police closed in.
"We remain deeply and profoundly saddened by the events of that tragic day," Virginia Tech President Charles Steger told the crowd. "Indeed, all our lives were changed on that day."
While this close-knit campus of 27,000 has worked hard to move on, the anniversary of the killings has left many struggling to cope. Some weren't sure how best to honor the dead.
"It's like a big question mark," said Heidi Miller, 20, a sophomore from Harrisonburg who was shot three times and was one of six survivors in a French class. "Should we be in mourning all day, or should we try to do something normal?"
Mourners stood with heads bowed, some wiping away tears. Others locked arms as the accomplishments of each of the 32 echoed across the Drillfield: Austin Cloyd had an iron will. Caitlin Hammaren loved playing the violin. Emily Hilscher was an enthusiastic cook. Jarrett Lane was a friend to all he met. Liviu Librescu embodied profound courage.
"The world was cheated — cheated out of the accomplishments that were sure to come from these extraordinary lives," Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said.
A moment of silence was observed for the victims followed by a tolling of bells. One grieving young woman fell to the ground and paramedics hurried to tend to her, helping her off the field as she sobbed.
Kaine ordered state flags flown at half-staff. A candlelight vigil was set for the evening.
Smaller, reflective gatherings were to take place during the day. One group of students planned to lie down in protest of Virginia's gun laws.
Some family members of victims entered War Memorial Chapel early Wednesday for a private service. Other family members of those killed said they couldn't bear to attend the official events and planned to grieve privately.
Bryan Cloyd, whose daughter Austin was killed, hopes to plant an oak tree with his wife Renee to honor their daughter's life. It is a way of looking toward the future, he said, rather than reflecting on the horrors of last April 16.
As a Virginia Tech professor and Blacksburg resident, Cloyd has faced reminders of his daughter every day. He believes Austin would want the community to honor her life, but then move forward.
"I won't be able to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding. I won't be able to bounce her children on my knee," he said softly. "And I don't think it's helpful to dwell on that, because where that leads is just more sadness. I think what's helpful to do is to dwell on what can be. What can we do with what we have?"
Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was shot but survived, was just hoping to make it through the day.
"It's just so emotional for everybody," she said before the tribute to those lost. "The kids — you're just so worried about them and think 'Are they reliving those moments?'"
Commemorations of those who were killed started Tuesday. A small bouquet of white carnations lay outside Norris Hall, where gunman Seung-Hui Cho and 30 others died. Other mementos appeared at the ring of 32 memorial stones placed months ago on the main lawn.
No public memorials were planned for Cho.
Gerald Massengill, who led a governor-appointed panel that investigated the slayings, has tried to focus his thoughts on the changes that have been made to the state's mental health system and school security procedures in light of the panel's recommendations.
"I think a lot of us have been anticipating April the 16th with some reservations as to how it would impact us," he said. "And I think as it's gotten closer, what I have tried to consume myself with are those things ... the lessons that we think we could learn from Virginia Tech."